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The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Amon Tobin's ISAM In Words & Pictures
The Quietus , July 12th, 2011 15:49

A report on Amon Tobin's recent Roundhouse spectacular, words by Alex Oxley, images by Valerio Berdini

The anticipation surrounding Amon Tobin's UK debut ISAM performance, was one rarely seen in electronic music circles. With his London shows few and far between in recent years, the announcement of a visit to these shores was greatly received. In the past Amon Tobin has mainly focused on DJ centric performances, but back in April news spread online of an ambitious audio/visual live show at the Roundhouse in Camden.

Alongside V Squared Labs, LVTHN and Creative Director Alex Lazarus, Amon developed an immersive 3-D animation piece. In reaction to this, acclaimed stage designer Heather Shaw went about designing the multi-dimensional art installation. Piecing this mammoth task together Stefano Novelli, who built the ISAM set. 
The Roundhouse was the perfect setting for this performance, a beautifully designed building of legendary status. Near darkness cues the show intro, making full use of the monstrous sound system empowering bass and audio glitches fill the space as installation is unveiled. Snaps of white light click around the structure, visions of a robot awaking in deep space come mind. Fighting to recharge, a robotic force embarking on a new lifecycle.

'Journeyman' shatters through before making way for a battleship in space, smashed and destroyed before falling from stars. Reforming and transforming, becoming anew. From here on we are submersed in a mind bending audio/visual performance, during a version of 'Horsefish' it's almost as if the installation is actually moving. Cubes shift, a geomagnetic restructure. The projection surface mapping was just jaw dropping, utilising the technology to it's fullest.

Tailing towards the later end of the performance elements of noise and glitch dominate, leaning towards futuristic drum & bass and the outer regions of dubstep. Set to a backdrop of what seemed to be red and white computer chips merging and interweaving together, giving an almost Tron-like visual feel.

For the encore we were treated to a reinterpretation of the classic 'Four Ton Mantis', a welcome classic that sounds as forward thinking now as it did eleven years ago. Amon Tobin has often struck me as an artist that strives to balance nature and technology with both his music artwork design.

ISAM has seen him push further more and develop on a meeting of technology and nature. With his 2007 album Foley Room, Amon focused on the concept of constructing tracks purely from field recordings and other found sounds. This project saw him trek far afield to record nature at it's most bear bones. Polar opposite to this, a great deal of the sounds featured on Foley Room are mechanical, on 'Esther's' motorbike samples take centre stage pinning the track together. The end result saw one built upon raw materials to create an album that balanced natural resources and futuristic recording techniques. The Foley Room album was seen by many as Amon Tobin reinventing himself artistically and following a new path that could both challenge and test him more so.

Never one to shy away from pushing into new areas and developing new techniques, his live ISAM show was truly breath taking and much like his audio output. Amon Tobin has now tested the limits of audio/visual performance and set a new benchmark.